Anxiety was not about the unsettled weather but the possibility of M4 delays owing to the pop concert in Swansea but, thankfully, traffic was not a problem and nine relieved ramblers arrived at the RSPB Cwm Clydach nature reserve in good time. Assembling on the rather forbidding carpark, overshadowed as it was by a high stone wall, the only relic of an abandoned colliery, we donned waterproof jackets against the spitting rain and set off up the valley along the disused tramway. Before long we left the tramway and its dog walkers to follow a narrow undulating footpath, lined with a marvellous variety of wild flowers, through woodland and over a mining waste tip largely reclaimed by nature to arrive at Pont Lechart, an old and narrow stone bridge over the river Clydach. Our refreshment stop was interrupted when we had to scatter to allow a large vehicle with trailer to pass on which keen eyed companions spotted the sign “Alpaca Shearing”! Regrettably we saw no sight of the creatures throughout the day.
Continuing on up the valley over old industrial land and mature woodland rich in natural flora, notably bluebells, we joined an ancient greenway which crossed the river on a delightful stone bridge and along which we were suddenly encouraged to stop and stand quietly and, yes, there it was, the unmistakable call of the cuckoo. Most of us it seems had not heard the sound for many years. Eventually we decided to halt at a shady, grassy bank for lunch where it was remarked how silent and peaceful it was – no traffic noise, no high flying aircraft but we almost immediately came under aerial attack as squadrons of midges drove us in to the open to escape the worst of their administrations. After our disturbed picnic we deciding it was now time to return so we retraced our steps back to Pont Lechart, leaving behind the distant cries of the cuckoo.
The bridge proved an ideal spot for a group photograph. We then deviated from our former route for the steep but short climb up to Ty-llwydyn Farm and a brief road section, very slippery at one point – oops, leading into more woodland through which the path descended to a footbridge over the Clydach onto the old tramway and back to our cars. The damp conditions in the early part of the day gradually gave way to give us a balmy afternoon – ideal walking weather. There were great views across the valley, the hazy atmosphere greatly enhancing the spectacle. Away from the tramway with its dog walkers and the bridge at Lechart with the occasional car we came across just one other person, a helpful farmer. For almost the whole of the 6.5 miles the only sounds were bird song and the constant babble of the river.